What do you think when you hear “cross-sell”? For me, it is a pushy way of encouraging people to buy more than they need. I myself see no value in cross-selling and upselling. Of course, I sometimes use it,but when I think about it, I never once saw a cross-sell that provided me with real value. But does it have to be this way??
Last week, while we were exploring reviews, we were talking about the Amazon effect, and how shops attract people not only by providing products, but also by providing real, free value for their users. I believe cross-selling works on the same principle. However, many shops don’t care about giving us any value with cross-selling so it ends up feeling like you wanted to spend a dollar, and the business wants your whole wallet.
Some time ago, I attended Halo Design, where Zalando’s Design Lead showed us how they use AI to pick the best cross-sells for users, and how it improved their overall sales greatly. He showed us an example where you pick shoes, and based on the ones that you picked, AI chooses pants and coat for you, and showed you how it all fits together, so it behaves like personal style assistant. And that was it!
When you think about music streaming services, it’s kinda the same. The songs are the product, and recommendations are a kind of cross-selling. I was using Tidal, it has great audio quality — the best on the market, you can listen to the songs as if they were straight from the studio, and it works amazingly well. But after a some time I got bored. I wanted something fresh and new. Unfortunately, Tidal’s recommendation system isn’t great at all. I tried to search for similar artists but instead I found myself listening to Youtube radio stations where people always provide me with fresh new tracks. Although it was worse quality, it didn’t matter to me. What I cared about was that someone picked new tracks for me, and that I liked them. But this was also some kind of workaround, as even these radios got boring over time.
I’ve read many articles about the glorious Spotify recommendation system, so I started using it. Even though the audio quality is not studio-like, it’s good enough for me .
Spotify recommendation system. Notice how each playlist has a personal touch with “Made for Stasiek” label.
What matters is the super-personalised recommendation system. Every week I get Discover Weekly, and six daily playlists with fresh tracks! I can listen to music on Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music or even Youtube — I don’t care, the audio quality is nearly the same everywhere, but I will always keep coming back to Spotify for that recommendation system, and when I’m there, it doesn’t make sense to go to a different platform. I just stay where I feel comfortable.
Now that you think about it, Zalando is aiming to do pretty much the same thing, but with fashion. Pick the shoes you like and they will show you how to wear it. Zalando will be your personal style assistant.
Common cross-selling weak points
Of course, you can say cross-selling is about proposing products that go well with picked ones, but I believe here we must have a mindset shift. We must go from selling to helping. And only then selling as result of a job well done.
There are four main problems with cross-selling:
1.Users feel being sold
There is no real value for the users. Spotify does a great job with recommendations, but they also provide small interesting trivia about each song, why don’t we do that with the products?
2.No reason to buy other products
I myself ignore most sell offers upfront. While shopping online, I constantly receive product propositions and I don’t even have a clue how those products would be useful for me. I believe that in the recommendation systems we need more empathy. Let’s educate users about the products, and help them understand.
3.Cross-selling is not a part of the flow
We all know it, a small banner underneath product info shows us similar products and … that’s it. To be honest, Amazon does a great job here. After you add a product to the cart it shows you all the necessary info about your cart (more about it next week), and redirects you to a whole new page with cross-sells based on the product that you bought, so cross-selling becomes a natural part of the flow.
No distractions and great value, that’s smart!
4.Products are separated
In many cases, products in cross-selling offers feel like something totally separate whereas nearly every product is part of something bigger. You don’t wear just shoes, you wear them with pants, a shirt, and a coat. So, maybe we should stop treating products as standalone objects and always present them with some context instead.
Brainstorming the problem solutions
So, as always, we did the brainstorm and tried to figure out solutions to each problem. Here’s what we came up with:
1.Educating via cross-selling articles
Instead of just showing products that match a certain category, we could explain why that one particular pick is handy with the product you are buying. Imagine a product page as a big descriptive page, where you can get to know everything about a certain thing. Let’s say you are buying a bike and it’s product page provides you with additional articles on how to change chains, why caring about your chain is important, how to take care of it, etc., and then proposes you a complementary product like grease linked from the article. Now users know what they are buying and why this is important!
2. Gentle cross-selling
We could make cross-selling a gentle part of the flow. In that case, we can show our user one item that makes a perfect set with the one already picked, and then he could add that item to the cart without redirecting to another product page.
3. Outfit page instead of product page
If we think about products as parts of sets, we can get rid of single product pages, and replace them with multi-product pages. For example, there wouldn’t be a page for shoes. Instead, we would present them on a page with the whole outfit, where you have listed the presented items, and you can add them separately to the cart.
4. Configurator flow
Some time ago at Divante we used a configurator for one of the projects. If you think about it, the configurator could be part of the perfect flow, especially for the products that you buy rarely! In the configurator, you guide a user through each step, you educate him and propose a personalized product. Maybe we could get some kind of configurator mixed with cross-selling?
5. Pinterest infinite browsing
Imagine what would happen if we changed the shop model to a Pinterest-like one. You would just browse products, click on it and get infinite product recommendations based on what product you are on, a kind of place for inspirations where you can buy things with ease. Cross-selling wouldn’t be part of the website, it would BE the website. Also, thanks to progressive web apps, we could make a native-app-like experience, taking full screen and adding the icon to the home page. Imagine how artsy shops like Etsy would benefit from this layout. Browsing would be super easy, we would provide great value for our users to come back each day and browse beautiful images, and when they find something that they like, instead of pinning it, they could just buy it!
6.Items as a sets
Maybe we shouldn’t think of products as parts of sets, but as the sets themselves. For example, you buy a new heating plate for your kitchen, and when you add, let’s say, a dishwasher and blender it would become a standard chef set. In another case, if you add carbon-steel knives and a rice cooker, it becomes pro chef set. On a product page, you would have the ability to choose between sets you are buying, so products look like a strong union and its a natural part of the flow. To be honest, at this point cross-sells would transform into upsells, and that’s good information for business, as from what we know upselling works 20 X better than cross-selling.
7.Tomato with recipes
An idea very similar to the product page with articles, but this time we would have something that can be used in many different ways, let’s say a tomato. Imagine you’re buying a tomato online and underneath you have many recipes including tomatoes as an ingredient. When you pick the recipe you liked, all the necessary ingredients would be added to your card.
What is the best cross-sell solution?
After sketching these ideas, we decided to choose two ultimate cross-selling solutions for future eCommerce.
Each of us had “4 dots to use” to pin on the designs that we valued most. It turned out that three designs won out. Usually, we do only 2 so we had to remove one, and then worked on the other two in detail. We decided to skip digital wireframes, as such deep focus is not needed here.
We made animated shots to show exactly what we meant as still shots can be confusing, and animation made them even more pleasant.
What do you think? Which two did we pick?
We favored the “Items as a sets”, “Tomato with recipes” and the “Gentle cross-selling” approaches the most, dropped the tomato (that was a hard choice), and after a few hours of designing, we managed to output these awesome animations:
Items as a sets:
So, what do you think about these cross-selling approach ideas? Maybe you see something that can be improved or think that another type of cross-sell would be better? Let us know in the comments!
Thank you for your time, and if you want to check out more, head to Divante’s Dribbble. If you like this kind of activity, please let us know by giving a clap or a comment.
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